National Rail Enquiries unveiled its new journey planner app this month and quickly clocked up more than 100,000 downloads.
The iOS and Android app is free to download, though there is an a-free version for £4.99.
It offers live travel information and the ability to plan journeys ahead of time.
National Rail Enquiries doesn’t sell tickets directly to customers, however its website does link to train operating companies and this functionality will be added to the app soon.
So how useful is the app?
I’ve never been a huge fan of NRE’s website as I feel it’s difficult to use, but the app is excellent.
It is clearly aimed at commuters as the homepage gives you the option to set your home and work stations. This allows you to find out the live departure times for your next train home from work simply by tapping one button.
Furthermore, if you’re not at work there is a big ‘Get Me Home’ key that uses geo-location to bring up your closest train stations.
This works for all overground stations and even London Underground stations within zone one. By clicking on the station you wish to travel from the app then brings up your travel options, including information about any planned engineering works.
The one feature currently missing is a map showing you where the nearest stations actually are.
Obviously this is easy enough to do using your phone’s map, but it would have been useful to offer the feature within the app.
For those not on the daily commute, NRE’s app offers tabs for ‘Live Trains’ and ‘Planner’, which include the features you would expect.
‘Live trains’ allows you to search for a station manually or it can find your nearest one using geo-location or previously travelled routes.
You can then easily search for live train information for routes to or from your chosen destination. Once you have chosen a particular train, you can track its progress and ask to be alerted if it is going to be more than five minutes late.
Once on the train, the app also allows you to set an alarm to wake you up as you approach your destination.
The ‘Planner’ tab allows you to check the times for future journeys and includes all the same options for setting live alerts.
In ‘Settings’ you can manage your favourites and alerts, as well as programming the app to only show direct or fastest travel options.
This is an excellent app that I find to be much easier to use than NRE’s website. The live travel information and push notifications of delays are really useful for commuters, and could help prevent users from hanging around on platforms waiting for delayed trains.
The ‘Get Me Home’ function is also great for when you are in an unfamiliar location, as is the ‘Wake me up’ alarm.
NRE and developer Fortune Cookie clearly had a good idea of their target audience and the functions they would need on a mobile app.
I should caveat this write up by mentioning that I tested the app using Wi-fi, so the features may not be as slick using 3G.
Similarly, knowing National Rail, there are bound to be occasions when it says your train is at the platform when in fact it’s delayed by another 20 minutes.
But from a design point of view the NRE app is an excellent journey planner.